Charlie Hanger, the man who arrested Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, had already planned to speak to middle school students Friday on the 18th anniversary of the bombing.
Now he anticipates questions from the young people about Monday's deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon, he told the Los Angeles Times.
The Boston blasts, which left at least three people dead and more than 170 injured, struck a chilling chord for Oklahomans. On April 19, 1995, a Ryder truck with a fertilizer bomb exploded outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, including 19 children at a daycare center. More than 400 were injured.
Timothy McVeigh, an antigovernment extremist, was convicted and executed. An accomplice, Terry Nichols, is serving a life sentence without possibility of parole.
Although the circumstances of the Boston and Oklahoma bombings were different, “there were a lot of similarities,” Hanger said. “These were just innocent people out there having fun, and then someone commits this horrendous crime.”
Hanger was an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper in April 1995 when he arrested McVeigh less than two hours after the blast. McVeigh was driving a yellow 1977 Mercury Marquis with no license plate. When Hanger pulled him over, he noticed a bulge under McVeigh's jacket. McVeigh admitted he had a gun; Hanger arrested him for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit. McVeigh was still in custody in Perry, Okla., when federal officials linked him to the bombing.
On the anniversary of the bombing and several times a year, Hanger gives speeches around the state about the arrest. Young people, he said, usually ask why tragic events like those in Oklahoma City and Boston occur. It's a question that is always difficult to answer.
Hanger, now the Noble County sheriff, said he knows people in Oklahoma and the rest of the country are anxious about who caused the Boston blasts.
He doesn't know if catching the bomber or bombers will bring closure for the victims, he said, “but it'll make everyone feel safer. I'm confident that will happen and that they've got a lot of boots on the ground.”
On April 28, more than 20,000 runners will compete in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, which is held every year as a tribute to the victims and survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing. Race officials say that the marathon will go on as planned and that authorities are reviewing safety measures.
“We’re going to move forward as a symbol of defiance and resilience and what Oklahoma City stands for: that terrorism doesn’t win, that it can’t take away any of our freedoms,” Kari Watkins, executive director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, told The Times on Tuesday.
Watkins invited runners who couldn't complete the Boston Marathon because of the blasts to run the Oklahoma race without an entry fee. She sees it as a way to send a message of triumph.